A nursing home debt is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), according to the Second Circuit federal appeals court in New York.
In Eades v. Kennedy, PC, a Pennsylvania nursing home resident died with an unpaid bill owed to the nursing home. The nursing home hired a debt collection law firm, which contacted the resident’s daughter in New York and put pressure on her to pay her mother’s debt, claiming that her wages could be garnished and a lien could be put on her father’s home.
As a sidenote, the nursing home’s claim rested on Pennsylvania’s “filial responsibility” laws, and on the fact that the resident’s husband signed an admission agreement as responsible party. We’ve written about attempts to hold children liable previously, and it bears repeating that you should approach admission agreements with great caution. It’s worth having your own attorney review the admission agreement before you sign.
The Second Circuit held that law firm’s attempt to collect the nursing home debt was subject to the federal FDCPA law. This is significant because the FDCPA provides important protections to consumers. The FDCPA forbids debts collectors from making misrepresentations, making unrealistic threats of legal action, making harassing phonecalls, calling outside reasonable hours, using profanity, etc. It creates a procedure that debt collectors are required to follow.
While the Second Circuit decision isn’t controlling in New Jersey (since New Jersey is within the Third Circuit), this decision is a strong indication that the FDCPA does apply to efforts to collect nursing home debts. That is good news for anyone with a close relative in a long term care facility. These days, it seems that attempts to collect unpaid facility fees against family members are becoming more common. The FDCPA grants consumers valuable protections in collection attempts.